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A Message from the Acting NIH Director

Closeup of Dr. Lawrence Tabak in a suit

Dear Colleagues,

NIH joins the nation in celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) Heritage Month. In recognition of this year's theme, We Are Not a Monolith, the NIH Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) is highlighting a curated collection of resources, references, and first-person perspectives that help us better understand the diversity of those within the AA and NHPI community.

Last September, in alignment with NIH’s overall efforts and the White House Executive Order on Advancing Equity, Justice, and Opportunity for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, we renamed the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Special Emphasis Employment Portfolio as the Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AA and NHPI) Special Emphasis Employment Portfolio. This is another step toward better understanding the AA and NHPI communities that represent a multitude of cultures, languages, and experiences in the U.S. EDI data collection now disaggregates Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI) from Asian Americans (AA) within the Race & Ethnicity category when reporting NIH Workforce demographics. This practice may reveal any disparities that may exist within AA and NHPI communities. Data is integral to understanding workforce representation trends, as well as other important topics.

At NIH, another issue we are addressing for AA and NHPI and other marginalized communities is the leadership disparity gap. While AA and NHPI individuals represent almost 20% of the NIH workforce, AA and NHPI representation in senior leadership positions continues to lag behind their presence in the overall workforce. We need actionable solutions and recognize that certain approaches we have used for some groups who are underrepresented in the executive ranks, may not necessarily work for other groups. We have seen that progress is made by engaging with leadership, employee resource groups, and other parts of the workforce, and we will seize opportunities to continue to develop the AA and NHPI leadership pathway. We are also sensitive to concerns related to the Department of Justice’s former “China Initiative” that has evoked a range of emotions including fear and declining morale, particularly among U.S. scientists of Asian and Chinese descent. This must be addressed across the entire U.S. biomedical research enterprise.

We are pleased that the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (WHIAANHPI) has been reinstated in the Department of Health and Human Services. The mission of WHIAANHPI is to lead a whole-of-government agenda to advance equity, justice, and opportunity for AA and NHPI communities.

During this month of recognition and celebration, we do not forget the challenging times that we continue to live through because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Too often in the news, we read about the increase in unacceptable, often tragic harassment and violence against the AA and NHPI community. There have been almost 11,000 hate incidents in the U.S. against AA and NHPI individuals between March 19, 2020 and December 31, 2021, and we emphasize again that respect for everyone—all ethnicities and races—is a fundamental value for NIH and essential to achieving our mission. Every person deserves a sense of safety and belonging.

As we celebrate AA and NHPI Heritage Month, I encourage you to visit EDI’s website to learn more and participate in this observance. In addition to the other exciting events lined up for May, we are delighted that the Director of the National Eye Institute, Dr. Michael F. Chiang, will be the keynote speaker on May 26th for the annual Kuan-Teh Jeang Lecture hosted by EDI and the Office of Intramural Research. In his lecture, Artificial Intelligence, Ophthalmology…and Being an Asian-American Clinician-Scientist, Dr. Chiang will discuss his experiences in developing a career at the intersection of engineering, ophthalmology, and biomedical informatics and how his career has been shaped by his perspective as an Asian American. For more information on how to join the events (all virtual!) and insight into the AA and NHPI portfolio, please visit the campaign website or contact


Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Acting Director, NIH

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